A MUM of three who faced stopping her chemotherapy as she was too ill to care for her children has thanked County Durham support service Macmillan Joining the Dots for stepping in to help her.

Victoria Hope, aged 32, from Newton Aycliffe, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in August 2018 after she found a lump in her chest when her youngest son was just two weeks old.

She started an aggressive form of chemotherapy immediately but reacted badly to the treatment.

Miss Hope said: “I was very ill with the drugs. By only the second cycle, I was already starting to be sick while still receiving the treatment.

“It was so hard looking after a new baby and two other children at the same time as being ill.

“I’d be vomiting while feeding him and I felt so weak and dizzy that I was frightened I might pass out whilst holding him. Even the extra strong anti-sickness tablets didn’t work.”

Miss Hope’s Macmillan primary care nurse introduced her to Paula Spark, a facilitator at Macmillan Joining the Dots, a partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and Durham County Council which is delivered by the Wellbeing for Life Service.

Mrs Spark worked with other organisations to arrange for two volunteers to look after Miss Hope’s children in her home so she could have her chemotherapy.

Mrs Spark said: “Victoria’s primary concern was her children and their safety, but I also had a conversation with Victoria about her other emotional, financial and practical needs and found that there were other things like transport to hospital for treatment, immediate concerns like getting out to buy Christmas presents for the boys, and concerns about losing her hair, that were bothering her.

“I liaised with the Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust and went with Victoria to sort out a wig.

“They provided her with two free of charge and in addition they bought and delivered Christmas presents not only for the children but also for Vicky.

“The Great Aycliffe Cancer Support Group also then provided transport to all her radiotherapy appointments.”

Miss Hope is currently in remission but says that Macmillan Joining the Dots are still there for her to make sure that she’s coping.

She said: “I’m suffering the after-effects of treatment such as tiredness, burning sensations in my veins, muscle spasms, pain in my joints and feeling like my lungs are being crushed.

“I also have damage to my heart and lungs from the radiotherapy as the tumour was so close to them.

“Paula from Macmillan Joining the Dots still keeps in touch and it makes a huge difference to know that they’re still there for me.

“They really don’t get the credit they deserve. If it wasn’t for Joining the Dots, I wouldn’t have been able to cope.

“I couldn’t have continued treatment without this help so I probably wouldn’t be here.”

Macmillan Joining the Dots has supported over six hundred people living with cancer across County Durham since it started a year ago.

The service provides a free personalised care and support system for anyone over 18 who has been diagnosed with cancer.

The Macmillan Joining the Dots Team can offer help and support for many concerns, including issues relating to work or home life, such as financial worries, transport to hospital appointments, and making a will, as well as providing emotional support.

Councillor Lucy Hovvels, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for adults and health services, said: “When someone is receiving cancer treatment, the emotional and physical impact of this can make it incredibly difficult to cope with day-to-day tasks.

“It can be especially hard for single parents with young children like Victoria.

“This is why the Joining the Dots service is so important; it provides practical and emotional support when people need it most.”

Jane Melvin, head of partnership for Macmillan North and North West England, said: “Macmillan Joining the Dots have achieved some great successes for people with cancer, like Victoria, throughout their first year.

“Her experience shows just how important it is to have support like this to deal with whatever cancer throws your way both when undergoing often gruelling treatment and also when treatment ends.

“Joining the Dots is right there for people with cancer providing help and support when they need it most.”

To access the service call 0800 876 6887, visit joiningthedots.info or email cddft.joiningthedots@nhs.net